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Wednesday, April 16th 2014


Getting out of Dodge!

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: moving on
Dodge City obviously was a very different experience compared to the previous days of seeing the wonders of nature as God has created them. I'm tempted to say something along the line that historically Dodge City could be considered to be a monument to the depravity of the human race, but that wouldn't really be fair. Human depravity manifests itself anywhere, anytime, and there are many places where it was probably far more intensely visible. Furthermore, I think one should be at least a little inspired by, say, Wyatt Earp--if not by the historical person, then at least by the legend as it had been perpetuated in stories and black & white TV programs. There was a time when we saw these figures as symbols of good victorious over evil. Even if the actual people weren't as good and pure as their legacy has invented them to be, that legacy points us to a time when people still thought in terms of objective good and evil. Nowadays, how can the sheriff gun down the bad guy in a street duel if the bad guy's only fault is that he came from a culture that taught him that it's a good thing to shoot deputies? Bring back the symbols!

Gunfight in Dodge City

I might just add that this picture does not represent an illustration of appropriate evangelism or apologetics techniques.

Dodge City grew up for the most part subsequent to the disputes with the Native American tribes formerly of that area. As mentioned before, and as described with a little more detail elsewhere, Kansas was the site of quite a bit of fighting between the U.S. Army and militias against the loose coalition of Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and some of the Sioux. The boot hill museum brought up this topic in its introduction video and gave me a new insight. I've known for a long time, of course, that the massacre of bison eventually contributed seriously to the defeat of the tribes who were dependent on buffaloes for their subsistence. I've always thought of these "excursions" by "hunters," who would shoot thousands of bison from trains, as merely an exhibition of human cruelty and stupidity. The video pointed out that these killings were an intentional, planned, aspect of the extermination of American Indians. The simple strategy was that, if you could not defeat them in battle, you could nevertheless get them out of the way by depriving them of their means of livelihood. 

Roman NoseBison Exhibit

The museum had a picture of the Cheyenne leader Roman Nose (aka. "Crooked Nose" or "Hook Nose") together with two other warriors. I've singled out the picture of Roman Nose and spruced it up a bit (i.e. provided color) because he's the most famous one. Though technically not a chief, Roman Nose was a fierce warrior, and, wherever he fought, his fellow tribesmen followed him. For a time, he agreed with the supreme Chief Black Kettle in pursuing a policy of peace. However, along with many other American Indians across tribal boundaries, he changed his mind after the Sand Creek Massacre and parted company with Black Kettle. He joined the feared "Dog Soldiers" in several successful armed actions. The plaque at the museum simply stated that his eventual death was accounted for by an apparent breach of a taboo concerning his war bonnet. More specifically, he had received the bonnet from a medicine man who told him that it would provide him with invulnerability under two conditions: 1) He should never shake hands with anyone in the manner of white people; 2) He should never eat any food that had been handled with an iron implement. On the night before his last battle (Beecher Island, Sept. 17, 1868), he had eaten some bread that a Sioux woman had lifted with an iron fork.

Speaking of women among the plains tribes, the museum also had a display of a "squaw" in the process or erecting a tipi. On an accompanying plaque there was a delightful lesson in "Tipi Etiquette":

Woman at Tipi

If the tipi door was open friends could walk in. If it was closed they had to call out or rattle the door and await an invitation to enter. Two crossed sticks over a tipi door meant owners were away or desired no company.
Generally men sat on the north side and women on the south. Women did not sit cross-legged as did men, but with both their legs folded to one side or on their knees. Children stayed near the door, free to run and play when they pleased, but not inside. On entering the tipi, the man moved to the right and the woman to the left. Whenever possible, it was proper to walk behind a seated person. No one stepped across the altar of the fire. At a feast, adult men were served first. The host waited until the guests had been served and had eaten before partaking of the food. They offended the host if they refused anything offered them. When a pipe was smoked in a tipi with both genders, it was lighted by the headman in the rear of the lodge. The pipe was passed to the left, and the stem was always pointed to the left. When the host cleaned his pipe and laid it aside, that was the signal that the meeting was over and everyone was expected to leave. Indians did not waste time on long farewells.

Winnetou's Silver RifleOne other item from the Boot Hill Museum. This one also relates to Native American,  but more specifically to the ones that sprang out the imagination of the German author Karl May. Thus this item may only be of interest to any German readers of my blog. Karl May's hero, the noble Winnetou, chief of all Apaches (don't try to find him in any history books), carried a rifle that was decorated with silver nails, his celebrated Silberbüchse. I've often wondered whether such a weapon was possible, and whether it was at all realistic. It turns out that the museum displayed a rifle that had at one time been owned by an American Indian, which was, in fact, decorated with nails. In his case, the nails may have had distinct colors at one time, but the colorations were pretty much gone. With the help of Paintshop Pro, I attempted to convert the indifferent colors into Winnetou's silver. So, here is a picture of an authentic Indian weapon, somewhat edited, the likes of which may have served Karl May as model for Winnetou's Silberbüchse.

Yesterday we made our way to Kansas City. Along the way we met up with Rose Carkeet Thornbury and her husband, Scott, outside of Manhattan Kansas. We had a good time catching up and hearing about their ministry with foreign students as well as their excitement for wherever God will lead them next, once Scott is done with his military commitment.

Then, last night, June and I had dinner at the Cheese Cake Factory with Nirmal Singh Samuel, Trey Jadlow, Dan Guinn, and Jason Shaitel, all of them associated with Francis Schaeffer Studies.org. This is a huge restaurant that specializes in unique cuisine of virtually all ethnicities and--unsurprisingly--cheesecake deserts. The discussion was invigorating to me, and hopefully helpful for our friends as well.

Apologetics Dinner at the Cheese Cake Factory

As you read this, June and I are somewhere west of the Atlantic Ocean and east of the Pacific. In terms of latitude we are north of Mexico and south of Canada. We hope to be home soon.

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Monday, April 14th 2014


Getting into Dodge! (Kansas, that is.)

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: tired, but good

Dodge City

Last night June and I agreed that yesterday's drive had been a little bit too long for my tolerance, so we decided to go a much shorter distance today. I checked on the map if there was anything interesting only a few hours away, and found that just a short distance off our route was Dodge City, KS, home of some of the heroes of half-hour black and white TV shows some time ago: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, etc.

On the drive to Lamar yesterday, we passed a sign pointing the way to a memorial of the Sand Creek Massacre. So very briefly I toyed with the idea of taking today to pay it a visit, but then it would have been pure backtracking and then going another forty-seven miles from there, and it didn't seem the best thing to do under the circumstances. A memorial is a good thing, but visiting it doesn't undo the damage, and I've already expressed my opinion about that sick occurrence in the above list.

It is extremely cold here. Last I checked, it was 32°F and going down, with an incredibly strong wind contributing to the freeze In fact, tomorrow's forecast is for snow. Here I thought we had been done with all of that. Most likely, we're not going to try to continue the drive tomorrow but wait until Tuesday, when fair weather is predicted again. We'll probably visit Boot Hill and see if there's anything worthwhile to see.

I don't know whether there will be opportunities here for serious learning. Fort Mann, not too far from here, was destroyed in 1848 by Apaches, Comanches, and Arapahoes. It no longer exists. The road we've been traveling the last couple of days follows the so-called Santa Fe Trail, along which "immigrants" were moving their wagons towards New Mexico under constant danger of attack by hostile Indians, who for some reason thought that the U.S. government would honor its treaties. Fort Dodge was built much later, and does not seem to have been involved very much (if at all) in the so-called Indian wars.

In the meantime, here are a couple of pictures I took while standing outside the car and shivering.

Wyatt Earp BlvdDoc Holliday

How appropriate that a liquor store should be named after Doc Holliday!

This area is clearly all about cattle. We passed several major stockyards. Unfortunately it's really not possible to catch the immensity of these places with a camera, even by stitching together two pictures taken with a wide angle lens.

Stock yard outside of Dodge City

This trip has taken on dimensions that we had not foreseen. In many ways a trip composed of serendipities is the best kind. We feel secure in the Lord's guidance and his hand over us as we continue to travel.

I still need to get a real Western cowboy hat that I can wear to Cowboy Church on Saturday--Lord willing!

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Sunday, April 13th 2014


Farewell to Colorado


Farewell, Colorado! Greetings from Lamar, Colorado. Yes, regretfully, though not sadly, we decided that after that lengthy and enjoyable stay in Cortez, we really couldn't rationalize going further south and west (viz. away from home), adding at least two, more likely three, days to the trip. We set our sails eastward, grateful for all that we've experienced so far--and we're not home yet. The stay in Cortez turned out to be so good that we both agreed that there was no need to go on and possibly turning the trip into a drain. As I think I mentioned, we spent most of Thursday back in Mesa Verde, and yesterday (Friday) I visited the Anasazi National Heritage Monument, which contains a museum and two pueblo "houses." Eventually, I'll get more technical about these things, but somewhere along the line I need to finish the "physics" series first. And for that, I need to be at home so that I can double-check my information. So, right now, we'll stick with the more narrative stuff, following my usual process.

Technically, we're still in Colorado, but the landscape is definitely Kansas already.

So, about the truck. Here's the mechanical wrap-up. It's a 4 x 4. In 2-wheel drive only the rear wheels have power; for 4-wheel drive the front wheels are also engaged. So, there are two drive shafts, one for the rear wheels, and the additional one for the front when one goes into 4-wheel mode. They meet in the "transfer case." As it turned out, my forward drive shaft had gotten totally deformed, and it smashed the transfer case. (Nasty, unscrupulous drive shaft!) The good folks at the repair shop in Cortez were able to find a set for the 2004 Dakota at a salvage yard (This is standard practice; there were no new ones available without waiting for several months). The case was fine, and the service manager Jeff and his crew were able to mount it just right. The front drive shaft that came with it was about as trashy as mine, so they left it out. Jeff assured me that it is perfectly safe, and it was running great today, the only drawback for now is that I won't have 4-wheel drive until a new front drive shaft is installed, which I can get done in Indiana. But since we're hopefully past the snow and ice, and we're not heading into the desert any time soon, there's no pressure. Again, thank you to the encourager who paid for the repair! Also, thanks to everyone involved; everybody was extremely nice and accommodating.

As I hiked up the little hill at the Anasazi Monument, there was an overlook with a plaque that told the following story about Ute Mountain, located in Utah, which could be seen from a distance:

    "In the very old days, Sleeping Ute Mountain was a great warrior god. He fought against Evil Ones who were causing much trouble. During a battle between the Warrior God and the Evil Ones, the Warrior God was hurt. He lay down to rest and fell into a deep sleep. The blood from his wounds turned into water for all creatures to drink. The Warrior God has four blankets, which he changes each season. He wears his light green blanket in spring, his dark green blanket in summer. In the fall his blanket is red and yellow, and his winter blanket is white. The Warrior God can be seen on the horizon lying on his back, arms folded across his chest, his feathered headdress laid out to the north behind his head. Someday he will rise again to help his people fight against their enemies."

The plaque also provided a drawing of how the sleeping Indian should be seen. I photographed it, left only the lines, and tried to make it fit as best as I could. Run your mouse over the picture to see the image.

I'm really getting tired, so I'll have to quit. I'll leave you with a picture of the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde.

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde


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Friday, April 11th 2014



  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: thankful
  • IN THE BACKDROP: a chattering prairie dog
I just picked up our fixed Dodge Dakota from the dealer. A huge THANK YOU to the anonymous person who picked up the tab on it.  I'm humbled, flabbergasted, and deeply grateful. 
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Thursday, April 10th 2014


From Cortez: All around Colorado Springs

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: Glad to be here, despite the problems

As expected, here we are, still in Cortez, Colorado. The manager of the auto shop called this afternoon to reassure us that everything is still going as planned. Actually, that translates into the fact that nothing is going yet, but it looks like it will get going tomorrow (Friday), which is the plan. The parts are supposed to come in sometime tomorrow before noon. Then he will call again to let us know the prospects for getting the work done so that we can head homewards.

Garden of the Gods, ColoradoToday we took the rented car back up into Mesa Verde, and I'll save my report until after I have told you about last Sunday.

We made a casual start on Sunday with Carolee D. as our guide to Colorado Springs and environs. Both June and I had been there before. For me the first time was in 1984 for a conference on Values in Liberal Arts or something along that line, sponsored by the Lily Foundation. Then about ten years ago or so, both of us were there for the ETS conference and rented a car afterwards to spend some time at the Garden of the Gods and a few other scenic areas. In the meantime, the area has grown quite a bit, and Carolee knew of a lot more places to marvel at.

We did make a fairly lengthy stop on the way to Colorado Springs in an unsuccessful attempt to discover the reason for an occasional odor emanating from the pickup's engine. Not finding anything, we went on, and nothing bad happened. For that we would have to wait until Tuesday afternoon.

The first area we entered was Glen Eyrie, the headquarters of "The Navigators," a Christian discipleship organization. We were permitted to drive around their area. The scenery was spectacular.

    Actually that particular sentence will needs to be repeated endless times in various permutations in these next upcoming entries. Maybe from time to time I'll just abbreviate: TSWS. Also, I might just mention that I'd really be tickled if anyone used one of my scenery pictures for their computer desktop! I would definitely be willing to part with a free book upon receiving that information and confirmation. 

Glen Eyrie

As I said, the scenery was spectacular with amazing rock formations.

Also, let us not forget about the herd/flock of bighorn sheep. I'm a little puzzled on the proper language here. Normally, a set of sheep is called a "flock." But does that term also apply to wild bighorn sheep?--- I just looked at a National Geographic web site, and they referred to their aggregate as a "herd," so "herd" it shall be. I have crossed out "flock."

Bighorn Sheep

From there we went to the park called The Garden of the Gods and then to the Red Rock Canyon Open Space. I wish it made sense to post huge amounts pictures here, but a few samples will have to suffice. Sooner or later I should put a picture album together. What I'm getting at is, of course, TSWS.

Red Rock Canyon Open Space

The commercial part of old Colorado Springs has become ever more colorful. There actually were two shops selling Tibetan items, as well as articles of other Asian religions. Carolee and I went into one and had a good conversation with the shopkeeper, who hailed from Nepal and called himself a "Tibetan Buddhist-Hindu-Christian." He permitted me to take a picture of the "prayer wheels" for sale in his shop. (For more information on these implements, please go to the Tibetan section of the Dharma2Grace web site.

Tibetan Prayer Wheels

I might just mention that there were a few customers, and they were clearly not from Nepal or Tibet nor from any other foreign country, except maybe Canada. Forgive me for mounting my pulpit. However, Buddhism is continuing to grow in the United States, and--as far as I can tell--few Christian (by that I mean genuine evangelical) apologists seem to be interested in taking the time to learn about this religion. A few short, clever, and usually wrong arguments are not sufficient to respond to the intellectual challenges to Christianity coming from Buddhism.

After driving up and down the narrow switchbacks overlooking Manitou Springs, we headed back to Castle Rock. But one more stop was inevitable on the itinerary: a new Hindu temple to explore. This is a Vaishnavite temple, though the picture I got is of Shiva and Parvati.


Shiva and Parvati on Nandi

Apparently the temple is situated to serve (Asian) Indian folks in both Denver and Colorado Springs. My impression is that they are about as far along in establishing their building as the relatively new temple in Indianapolis, though--come to think of it--I haven't visited it since the last time I was there with Taylor students. That seems forever ago by now.

Let me close out this entry with a picture from Monday's drive from Castle Rock to Durango, Co. That'll get us caught up fairly well, and I can devote the next post or two to Mesa Verde and the Anasazi people. Let this mountain remind us of the great God who made it and gave us the faculty for perceiving beauty.

Colorado Mountain

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Wednesday, April 9th 2014


From Cortez: ISCA and the Lost Son


There are two melodies that have been alternating through my mind today. "Here we are in the Tijuana Jail ..." and "Cool Water." Neither one of them is really appropriate to our unplanned stay here in Cortez, Co, but that doesn't mean that they don't intrude. The official diagnosis of our 2004 Dodge Dakota is a broken transfer case. The shop manager thought that they may get the parts and have them installed by Friday (I'm writing this on Wednesday). We'll see. In the meantime we were able to rent a little white KIA, and so hopefully we'll be able to get back to Mesa Verde and maybe even do some more exploring in the vicinity while we're waiting.

This morning I took a lengthy hike (at least by my standards) in the Hawkins Preserve. I really enjoyed being out there in real wilderness.

Trail in Hawkins Preserve

On the return leg I suddenly saw a big man with a large dog coming onto the trail. I was a little concerned, so I stepped to the side and took a picture of some cacti. When I looked up, he not only was still there, he was coming up to me. So I moved towards him and said, "Hello!" He returned the greeting and inquired as to whether I had seen the dragon yet. I responded by pointing out that I didn't know of any local dragons and hadn't seen any. He asked me to look behind me, which I did, and--sure enough--there it was, the Hawkins Preserve Dragon.

Hawkins Preserve Dragon

The gentleman told me that he thought I wouldn't have wanted to miss. I agreed, thanked him, and trudged on.

Judge Phil GinnIn keeping with my intention of catching up with days previous to yesterday, tonight I'll quickly touch on the ISCA conference last Friday and Saturday. The no. 1 benefit was spending time with people we usually see only once a year, though some, such as Norm and Barb Geisler, we had been with back in October. As far as workshop sessions go, I obviously was there for my two (more on those below), one by C. D., and one by Trevor Slone. The plenary sessions were of varying value. One of them, though well-delivered, confused me, and I'm not happy how the aspects of his speech that are not constructive are being promoted. The speaker stressed that in the matter of "fighting" for biblical values, we were engaged in a spiritual struggle, not a physical one. But then, among other points, what he advocated was military engagements in various places around the world and political action at home. Though I don't necessarily want to dismiss either course of action categorically, I'm not sure how either one follows from his biblical premise.

My favorite plenary address was given by Judge Phil Quinn (who took a course with me once upon a time). He brought up a lot of solid facts, and then ended with just the right conclusion. With regard to evangelicals over the last few decades he declared: "We have compromised the integrity of our message for the privilege of having a glass of iced tea at the governor's mansion or at the White House. ...  Christ's Church has not been called to the primary purpose of influencing culture by political means." (Please note that the judge is not prohibiting such activities, but that he referring to our true message and our primary purpose.)

I believe ISCA is making at least audio versions of all of the presentations available fairly soon.


Luke Bible Study      

Bible Reading:
Luke 15:11-32

v. 20:  So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.(HCSB)

Yes, I know that I have just skipped a chapter and a half in Luke, but we'll get back to that content. Since I made use of the Buddhist parable of the Lost Son in my ISCA presentation, I thought that I could bring it up here, if for no other reason than to provide the basis for a contrast with the somewhat similar parable in Luke. I'll address the biblical parable again when it actually becomes its turn. Let's just keep in mind the basics of the story that Jesus told: A young man cashed in on his inheritance prior to the death of his father. He traveled abroad with a full purse and had a great time partying with so-called friends until eventually the money ran out. Simultaneously, so did his party companions. Reduced to a state of radical impoverishment, he decided to return home and offer his services as unpaid slave to his father. However, his father saw him coming from afar, recognized him, and ran out to embrace him. The father then gave him a golden ring and ordered that a big feast should be held in the son's honor. The young man's older brother ...  But we'll talk about him later. The obvious point of the parable is an illustration of God's unconditional grace and love.

Now, for the contrast, (with permission) I'm basically going to reproduce the story as it is recounted in the section on Mahayana Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra on the Dharma2Grace web site.

In the Lotus Sutra we find the story of the “lost son,” which in some ways bears a resemblance to Jesus’ parable of the “prodigal son.” Now, I need to make clear at the outset that the primary point of the Buddhist parable is not the same as the biblical one. The fundamental lesson here is that, even though it may take an extremely long time for a bodhisattva to become a Buddha, it will eventually happen. Still, we cannot completely ignore the attitude towards family members that is displayed in this narrative; namely, that they constitute a potential hindrance to a person's spiritual development.

The story begins when a man's only son gave in to various enticements and left home to seek his fortune. He did not find it, but instead dropped to the very bottom of society. He became a vagrant who was poor, hungry, filthy, diseased, and, needless to say, thoroughly unhappy. He wandered from town to town, most of the time living on what little he received by begging. His father, on the other hand, achieved a high level of material success. He moved to a different country, where he enjoyed all the good stuff that comes with having more money than you know what to do with.

In his meanderings, fifty years after the original split, the son happened to reach his father's mansion with its surrounding estate. (The numbers are unrealistic, but that's okay since this is clearly fiction, and the emphasis is supposed to be on extended periods of time.) The son did not know that this was the father's new residence, and he did not recognize his father either. He only saw a pompous old man directing various activities that would undoubtedly increase his wealth even further. The son was smart enough to recognize that he did not belong there, and that the chances of his receiving any food were extremely low. More likely, he feared, he would be pressed into slave labor with no compensation whatever. Consequently, after looking at this opulent property for a few minutes, he decided that he was better off trying to find some minimal nourishment in the nearby village. He turned around and headed back the way he had come.

Buddhist Parable of the Lost SonHowever, although the son had not recognized the father, the father, even with such a short glimpse, was pretty convinced that he had just seen his son. He sent two of his men after him to bring him back. They were not to identify themselves nor to disclose anything else that might reveal any connection between son and father. Their only message to him was that someone had a job for him, and that he would receive food in return.

Here it is where the biblical story and the one in the Lotus Sutra really diverge. The father assessed that the son was not yet ready to be recognized as his offspring. The father reasoned that he son himself would probably would not accept his true status as a fact, and, in any case, he was in no way fit to assume the position as heir to this luxurious estate. So, he put him to work shoveling manure. The sutra is quite explicit in describing how disgusting the material was that the son had to clear away. And he continued to do so--for twenty years. He slept in a hovel outside of the stables and received his daily ration of food, and the father left things that way for two decades.

It was only when the father was on his death bed that he made the public announcement that this man was his son, and that he was about to inherit all of his father's wealth. The son, having qualified himself by then, was overjoyed to hear this news and accepted his new position. The theological difference between the biblical account, in which the father readily accepted the son, and the Buddhist version, in which the son first had to earn the right to be recognized as worthy by the father is evident and need not detain us at this point. For our purposes we encounter the notion that a direct, warm relationship between the father and the son was considered a hindrance to the son’s preparation for his eventual status.  

This was one of four narratives that I used in my ISCA presentation to illustrate family relations, and as I go along, I'm sure I'll find a way of sneaking in the others as well.

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Wednesday, April 9th 2014


Stranded in Cortez

  • IN THE BACKDROP: Prairie Dogs

So, here we are at the American Holiday Mesa Verda Inn, located in Cortez, Colorado. This trip has been notable in a number of ways. I have been way too tired on some nights even to open the computer, let alone to compose a blog entry. I guess that will not be the case for the next few days. I will begin with reporting on today since it has been a crucial one and then catch up with previous days in later entries. Just to summarize, on our third and last day driving into the Denver area, we drove in a blizzard most of the day. The ISCA/EMNR conference went fine. Then on Sunday C.D. guided June and me around Colorado Springs and environs (I can't wait to tell you about that day!). Yesterday (Monday) we set out again and had a National-Geographic-worthy drive to Durango, Co. Then today (Tuesday) we set out from there, hoping to get to the Grand Canyon.

But first we visited Mesa Verde National Park.

Mesa Verde Park Entrance

It's almost an hour's drive navigating fairly narrow switch backs to get to the actual attractions, but there were plenty of surprises along the way. For example, there were some mule deer by the side of the road.

Mule Deer

June waited patiently while I hiked to the Spruce Pine Tree House, a partially restored pueblo area. The people who lived there from about AD 500 to no later than AD 1300 are known as the "Ancestral Pueblos." Teir economy was agricultural (maize, beans, turnips, the occasional pumpkin), supplemented by hunting. Why they left that area by the end of the thirteenth century AD is something of a puzzle. I picked up Leaving Mesa Verde, ed. by T. Kohler, et al, hoping to learn more about this phenomenon.

Spruce Pine Tree House, Mesa Verde

Those of my German readers who also are fans of Karl May may understand how excited I was to be there in addition to my academic interests in Native American cultures. (By the way, much of the area around Cortez is a part of a Ute reservation.)

A ladder led down to a "kiva," which apparently was an underground ceremonial room. Some people believe it developed out of the concept of a pit house.

Underground Kiva

After we left the park we had lunch in Cortez and then continued our drive along Highway 160 with about 40 miles to go to Arizona. Just before mile marker 15, something in our 2004 Dodge Dakota made a horrendous sound, and the engine stopped working. I managed to pull off to the side, got out and saw oil pouring onto the ground. I called our motor club, but the gentleman with whom I talked couldn't give us any help because I couldn't specify where we were. A highway number and a mile marker weren't sufficient. He wanted to know in which town we were.

Nowhere, Colorado

We were nowhere. Nowhere does have some spectacular scenery, of course--at least if you like nowhere, but the man on the phone wanted more information than I was able to provide.

Rock Formation

I was able to get hold of the state police, who immediately called for a tow truck. The trooper was extremely nice. He came out to where we were himself, which I don't think he was required to do, and made sure we were all right.

The tow truck then took us all the way back to Cortez. Our vehicle is now at the local Chrysler dealer. A preliminary diagnosis is that the crank shaft got loose and caused further havoc. It will not be cheap. Nor will it be quick. We may be here at the American Holiday Mesa Verde Inn for as long as a week. What we can do here for that time will depend on what the repair will cost, and we won't find that out until tomorrow morning at the earliest.

One consolation is that, even though Cortez would not make the top ten in America's most beautiful cities, it does have its South-Western attributes. Right outside of our motel room window, there is a small town of prairie dogs.

Prairie Dog

And on that cute note, I will end tonight's report. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated as we are going through this little adventure.


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Thursday, April 3rd 2014


Heading to ISCA

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: tired, but okay

SunakoHere is a problem with an easy solution. Assume that there is a vehicle traveling in a straight line heading  west at 3.5x103cmsec-1 (78mph). If it keeps going at the same velocity without acceleration, how much longer will it be until it has left Kansas? Ever?

Actually, this is my first time to cross all of Kansas from East to West, and, even though there certainly are a number of straight, relatively even stretches, for the most part the country side has been varied with plenty of curves in the road and enough up-and-down rolling along the way. I assume that the really flat part, about which every one always seems to be complaining, is further north. Either that, or the descriptions have been exaggerated, or I have a greater tolerance for the wide open spaces. Also, I'm sure that the effect could be intensified if we tried to get through all of Kansas at one time rather than taking a break in between. This is travel day two out of three to get to Denver tomorrow 

The reason for this trek is to be a part of the annual national convention of ISCA (International Society of Christian Apologetics) and EMNR (Evangelical Missions to New Religions). Here's a partial list of those providing plenary sections or workshops: Craig Branch, Lora Brown, David Clark, Carolee Denning, Phil  Fernandez, Norm Geisler, Phil Ginn, Doug Groothuis, Bill Honsberger, Richard Land, Janice Lyons, Bill Roach, Kenneth Samples, Trevor Sloan, Don Venoit, Don Williams, your humbly productive bloggist, and many more. [Say, isn't that nice? Since I am making up this list myself, for once my name is not "others."]

Crocuses 2014The wintry weather continued in our part of Indiana. Last Saturday once again we had snow that stuck to the ground. Happily, it was melted by evening. What's more, even though the conditions were not very favorable, on Friday June found some crocuses emerging from their regular location underneath the willow tree, sticking out from accumulated pine tree needles and fallen twigs.

I mentioned in a previous post that last week we had Sunako stay with us for a week. She is the most energetic dog one will ever meet. The picture shows her with a new ball.It's been a good two days of driving so far. We are essentially limited to 400 miles/day as this is the number I gave my disability insurance of how long I can tolerate being in a car at one time, so I need to stick to it. Besides, that's not a bad distance once you put several days together. Also, it's nice not to arrive at your intended target for the day without being utterly exhausted.

I need to confess that I haven't been feeling very well for the last week or so. To be honest, it came down to the last minute of whether I was in adequate shape to make the trip. So far it's gone pretty well. Yesterday (Tuesday) the weather was fine. Today (Wednesday), it started out with heavy rain and a lot of fog. The precipitation slowly faded out, though a heavy, dripping haze continued for the entire drive. We are making our second stop along the way; spending the night in Hays, Kansas. As you can see from the picture of the church, by early evening, the clouds had finally given way to a very clear sky.

Hays, KansasThe specific conference schedule has me discussing the question of attachment to family members in Buddhism. I will try to show that Buddhism, at least in its ideal forms, is a whole more demanding on family relationships than a lot of the "happy-talk Buddhists," whom you can find all over the web, are willing to admit  On Saturday afternoon Carolee D. and I will make a joint presentation, introducing the Dhara2Grace website.

That's as far as I an get tonight. Coming up shortly: The Christian parable of the "prodigal son" in contrast to Buddhist parable of the "lost son." Also, the geometric implications of the general theory of relativity. And probably some reports from ISCA.

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Thursday, March 27th 2014


Bending Star Light

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: very tired
  • IN THE BACKDROP: Dragnet 1970

This is another one of those entries that got started days ago, but wouldn't finish itself, so I had to step in and get it done as my energy and concentration allowed. At this point I'm seriously focused on being ready for the ISCA conference in a week. This week has been weird in some respects. It started out with my not sleeping at all Sunday night, and having a dentist appointment at 8 o'clock Monday morning. It takes about an hour's drive for us to get there. When we arrived, the recptionist told us that she had just received a call from the husband of the hygienist who was supposed to see me. She had been in an accident and was in the hospital. There's not much one can do about that. We rescheduled for Tuesday early afternoon and went home again.

Monday evening was not weird, but good. I did a Skype talk with the Ratio Christi chapter at UNCG (University of North Carolina Greensborough). Their very kind and efficient leader, Adam Tucker, has placed the audio portion of the meeting on their website, where you can listen to it if you want to. The topic was "Buddhism." Though I'm used to communicating in that manner thanks to classes and committee meetings via PicTel at Taylor, it's still always more of challenge since it's so much harder to discern whether the audience is following or not.

Then on Tuesday we went back to the dentist. If the rather blizzardy snow squalls that we encountered had been forecast, we missed that part. In places, the interstate was actually covered and slippery. Another hygienist (the regular one, I believe) saw me and did her thing. I found out that I'm not going to get my replacement work done until after the trip to Denver for the ISCA conference. I'm quite self-conscious about it at the moment.

Sunako, Nick and Meghan's no-longer-a-puppy, is staying with us for the week while they are taking a vacation out of reach of cell phones and computers.


I need to thank my friend Will W. for pointing me to the following quote by Albert Einstein:

"I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings."

The quotation can be found in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp (The Open Court Publishing Co., La Salle, Illinois, Third Edition, 1970) pp. 659 - 660. There the source is given as the New York Times, 25 April 1929, p. 60, col. 4.

I also need to thank Jimm W. for waking me from my tentative slumber and pointing out to me that photons are said not to have mass. I will rewrite the relevant portion of the last entry and also post it in the collection after I have emended the mistake. Here is a good summary and one of those never-ending, but helpful web discussions on the topic. The point is that a photon cannot have a resting mass, and one cannot simply calculate a mass for it on the basis of E=mc2, though Atkins misled me on that point in Physics, 508. But is does have momentum, and light does have "weight" in the sense that we've been discussing; viz., it responds to gravity.

I left off last time promising you an account of how Einstein's general theory of relativity was experimentally confirmed. Actually, there are several points at which the predictions of his theory were verified, but I want to zero in on the one that showed the effect of the sun's gravity on star light. Please tell me if I am not describing this process correctly. Or, for that matter, it wouldn't bother me if someone pointed out if I got it right.

Here goes.

We begin with the sun, a star, and an astronomer with a good telescope. Again, I'm going to give Atkins one more chance not to mislead me with his Physics, 510-13. At night the astronomer finds the star in its usual position. Since the sun is not anywhere near the path of the light sent down to us by the star (an obvious point, given the meaning of "night"), it does not interfere with this observation.

The question is now whether the star will appear in a slightly different location when it is subject to gravitational influence by the sun.  Well, that's not easily answered since we cannot see stars during daytime, let alone in the sun's proximity. But there is an exception. During a solar eclipse we can see the stars, and, even though the sun's light is not interfering with our view of the stars, we can check whether it is exerting a gravitational influence on the stars' light. The light from any stars in the vicinity of the sun during that time should appear in a different location from their usual position. Due to the sun's gravity, the light should bend around it, and, consequently, the astronomer should find it in a slightly different position than its usual hangout. At least that's what Einstein's theory said would happen.

And this is what the teams of physicists observed on May 29, 1919. That statement makes the process look much easier than it was. For one thing, the main areas of the full eclipse were in somewhat remote geographical locations: the island of Principe (west of Africa) for Arthur Eddington and his coworkers, and Sobral, Brazil, for the team led by Charles Davidson and A. C. D. Cromlin. I don't know how convenient travel is to those places now, but I'm sure it was much less so in 1919. Furthermore, the photographic equipment was state of the art for 1919, to be sure, but that's not saying much in comparison with what is available to the average citizen nowadays. And, oh yeah, let's not forget about the clouds, which almost ruined the possibility of any decent gathering of data by Eddington.

The clouds disappeared sufficiently for Eddington to get some usable images, but it was the Sobral team that had some very precise photographic plates. Developing these plates so that they could be used for minute analysis and be subjected to accurate measurements took quite a while. It was not until October of that year that the confirmation of Einstein's theory was announced.

But does light really "bend" due to a gravitation "force"? As everyone knows, in the general theory of relativity gravity is not a force acting on discrete bodies, but a curvature in space itself. More on that topic in the next entry on this theme.

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Saturday, March 22nd 2014


The Weight of Light

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: Moving far below the speed of light

How much does a beam of light weigh?  

The above question may strike you as the kind of nonsense the logical positivists of the early twentieth century equated with metaphysics: "How much does goodness weigh?" But they are very different questions. Or maybe it sounds like a Zen koan, in which case the answer might be something like: "Precisely what the scales say." Nevertheless, it falls into neither category; the question is a legitimate inquiry prompted by Einstein's general theory of relativity.

In the last entry on this topic I pointed out that the "general" theory of relativity differs from the "special" one insofar as it takes into account, not only inertial frames of reference (those that are at rest or travel at a constant velocity), but also ones that accelerate, viz. that change their velocities by either going faster or slower or by changing directions. I mentioned that gravity is considered to be a force, and that there is no measurable difference between the force of an object falling in a gravitational field and the same object falling inside of a spaceship accelerating at a rate equal to that of gravity.

Context for the Spaceship


Reaction by an Unattached Object Inside of the Spaceship

At rest in a gravitational field Gravity (g)

Object falls to the floor according to the rate of gravitational attraction.

No gravitational field None Object does not fall. It floats where it was released.
No gravitational field Equal to gravity (a=-g) Object falls to the floor with a rate equal to gravitational attraction.

Now, the question is what happens to a beam of light in an accelerated context (which includes a gravitational field)? The answer is that it behaves no differently than a dropped object would.

How can this be? Sure, an object has mass, but light is a very different thing, isn't it?

No, actually light is not entirely different. The same Albert Einstein who gave us the theories of relativity is known for what may be the world's most famous equation (except maybe a = pr2):

E = mc2

Light, as a form of energy, has an equivalence to mass that can be obtained by dividing its energy by the square of the speed of light.

m = E/c2

or, to clarify for anyone who might look at further writings and get confused by alternative notations,

m = Ec-2

Given the magnitude of c2, the speed of light squared, m is probably not very big, but it's enough to make a difference insofar as it interacts with accelerative or gravitational forces, even if we can't see that effect. (And, of course, the flip side of this coin is that a relatively small amount of matter can be turned into an apocalyptic magnitude of energy; as demonstrated by the atomic bomb.)

A beam of light will behave similarly to an object inside of a vehicle, such as a spaceship. In the previous entry I may not have emphasized sufficiently a significant difference between the special theory and the general theory. According to the special theory the distortions came into play under the watchful eye of an observer outside of the frame of reference under consideration; however, under the general theory the observer within the frame of reference is privy to seeing the ball's or the light beam's behavior. So, let us procure another rocket that includes a device which emits a ray of light and measures the curvature of its path, if any. (In case you're wondering, I'm getting my rockets from a used-rockets dealer around the corner. I think they're same ones first launched by Atkins in his Physics, 508-513).

If the frame of reference is neither accelerating nor under the influence of gravity (as illustrated by the rocket in the center below), the observer will see the ray of light traveling in a straight line. After all, isn't it a virtual truism that light moves in a straight line? Well, be that as it may for day-to-day activities, this is so only because the deviations from a straight line are so small that they are negligible. My illustrations for our present thought experiment definitely represent exaggerated results, which do, however, reflect reality. The truth is that gravity and acceleration do affect the direction of a light beam, and experimental data confirmed Einstein's theory.

So, once again, if the spaceship (the rocket on the left) sits on the ground with only gravity acting on the beam of light, our ultra-sensitive measuring equipment will tell us that the light is curving, drawn to the earth by the gravitational force g. We already mentioned that if the light is projected under neutral conditions (no gravity, no acceleration, middle rocket), it is completely straight. However, once again, if the vehicle were to accelerate at the same rate as the gravitational force (a = -g, rocket on the right), the light would be curved to the same degree as it would under purely gravitational conditions of the same quantity. The rocket is accelerating away from the light, as it were, just as it would be from a ball in the air in the previous example.

One might ask what kind of experimental data could possibly confirm such a theory? It takes observations on a truly cosmic level, and I'll describe one of them in the next entry. The most famous vindication of Einstein's speculations came from the observations of a of a solar eclipse by several teams of scientists. They were coordinated Sir Arthur Eddington, who had a deep-rooted conviction of the veracity of Einstein's theory even before the data were in.

As did Einstein himself, at least as remembered by a long-time pen friend, Inge Rosenthal-Schneider. When asked how he would have reacted if the observations of the universe did not agree with his calculations, Einstein quipped that "In that case I'd have to feel sorry for God, because the theory is correct." (Reported by Fölsing, Einstein, 439).

Einstein frequently referred to God. As is well known, one of his standard objections to the indeterminacy entailed by quantum mechanics was "Der liebe Gott würfelt nicht," which I'm translating idiomatically as "The good Lord doesn't gamble." However, as far as I can tell, if God played any meaningful role in Einstein's thinking, he was a mysterious creative force who, in typically deistic fashion, assembled a rational, calculable universe, but did not interfere with the subsequent fate of his creation. He was hardly the God of the Bible, whether from a Judaic or Christian interpretation.

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